This week state lawmakers advanced a plethora of good policy, from legislation to finally end the government liquor monopoly to a bill that would improve health care in rural areas. Facing difficult challenges, such as a $679 million budget deficit and a growing pension liability, lawmakers are demonstrating an interest in real solutions to redesign government and avoid tax hikes.
Here's a recap of the ten bills that advanced:
- Real Liquor Privatization: The House passed 4 bills to improve Pennsylvania's antiquated wine and liquor laws.
- HB 975, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, builds upon last year’s wine expansion.
- Also sponsored by Speaker Turzai, HB 1075 would completely remove state government from the wholesale wine and liquor business.
- HB 991, sponsored by Rep. Adam Harris, creates a license for private retailers to sell wine and spirits.
- Rep. Mike Reese's HB 438 allows restaurants to sell spirits-to-go.
- Strengthened School Choice: A charter reform proposal, HB 97, passed the House. This legislation provides some notable improvements, including creating a more objective charter evaluation tool.
- Union Contract Transparency: The Senate State Government Committee advanced three bills designed to bring greater transparency to the secretive government union collective bargaining process.
- Sen. Pat Stefano’s bill, SB 168, requires the posting of all proposed collective bargaining contracts.
- SB 504, sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin, makes contract offers subject to open records requests (a provision also included in Sen. Stefano's bill).
- Sen. Ryan Aument's SB 503 would subject contract negotiations to Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act.
- Improved Access to Health Care: Passing the Senate this week, SB 25 allows Nurse Practitioners to practice medicine independently and without the costly supervision of a physician. This regulatory reform will lower health care costs and boost the supply of health care in rural areas.
- Tax Cuts: A bill to make the vape tax less onerous (SB 508) passed the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
These actions reveal an appetite in Harrisburg to enact the structural changes necessary to avoid higher taxes and spur economic growth, benefitting all Pennsylvanians.